Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sing Out and Cry Aloud!

Isaiah 54:1-10
Sing, O barren one who did not bear; burst into song and shout, you who have not been in labour! For the children of the desolate woman will be more than the children of her that is married, says our God. Enlarge the site of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left, and your descendants will possess the nations and will settle the desolate towns. Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; do not be discouraged, for you will not suffer disgrace; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the disgrace of your widowhood you will remember no more. For your Maker is your spouse, the Leader of hosts by name; the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, who is the God of the whole earth.
For the Holy One has called you like a spouse forsaken and grieved in spirit, like the spouse of a one’s youth who is cast off, says your God. For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing wrath for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you, says the Holy One, your Redeemer. This is like the days of Noah to me: Just as I swore that the waters of Noah would never again go over the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you and will not rebuke you. For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Holy One, our God, who has compassion on you.
(sung by Sweet Honey in the Rock)

Matthew 25
“When the Human One comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the ruler will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by the Creator, inherit the realm prepared for you from the foundation of the world;  for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Sir, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the ruler will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels;  for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Sir, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Sermon
Will you pray with me? God of all people, open my mouth and heart to speak and share your truth and your love; give me grace to set aside my words, my thoughts, and to utter only what you would have me say to these your children. In your own glorious name, amen.

Today we’re observing Stonewall Sunday—remembering the day in 1969 when a police raid on a seedy bar in New York City sparked three days of riots and a true beginning to the civil rights movement for gay men, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. No one was killed; no one was badly injured. But GLBT people served the world notice that we would not be passive in the face of discrimination anymore.  Riots and protests had happened before—in San Francisco, at Compton’s Cafeteria; and in Toronto, after a raid on a bathhouse. But for some reason, it was a bit different in New York—the momentum carried on after the riots into organizations and planning and helped birth the LGBT liberation movement. It is somehow fitting that the state of New York passed their equal marriage law so close to this anniversary; and in doing so, they doubled the number of US citizens living where marriage is equal—New York has a very high population!

Stonewall was a time we shouted aloud and said, we are not to be forgotten and maligned and pushed aside and made to feel less-than. Like so many other groups, we had had enough and were not going to accept that this is simply how things were meant to be. A group of our forefathers and foremothers stood up and insisted on change. We’re still working on that change. When our private lives are still up for debate by other people, when people like us are executed simply for who they are (whether legally by the state, as is true in places like Iran, or by lynching, as happens in the US and Canada), when young people take their own lives because they see no way to simply live—there is still much work to be done.

It begins within ourselves. It begins when we recognize that we are worthy in God’s eyes—we have been fearfully and wonderfully made, in God’s own image, as we are. We do not need, in fact should not, try to be what we are not—because that is a denial of God’s blessing on us in our creation. Each of us knows who and what we are—whatever that may be for you. Each of us has had to insist on who we are, in some way—our sexuality or gender identity in spite of what our parents or teachers or friends said or thought; our career choices, our decision about a life partner. Perhaps it was more abstract—our individuality when others wanted to slot us, or make us over to be like them—whoever they were.

Isaiah tells us that God simply loves us; not “if only we do XYZ God will love us;” not “if we have XYZ, or say XYZ.” “With everlasting love I will have compassion on you,” God says. Everlasting, unconditional love. Absolutely nothing keeps us from God’s love, from God’s desire to be near us, to be our spouse, our partner, closer to us than breathing, as the hymn says. Sometimes it is difficult to trust that God is there—when others shout us down, shove us in a corner, shut us away. And sometimes it does seem that God’s face is turned away, hidden from us—but God has compassion and love for us. “Enlarge the place of your tent,” Isaiah says, “for more are the children of the desolate than of the married one.” There is something about the love of God for those whom others have turned away, the ones who are thought to be less than. Always, God’s heart has yearned to the ones who are pushed down and aside—the poor, the ones whose beauty is hidden, the lost and bereaved, the ones the world in general deems unworthy or unwanted. 
The overwhelming good news is that God loves us as a partner, a spouse, a lover. Not in an abstract, distant way, but close and intimate—God knows our pain as well as our hopes and joys.  What is it we desire? God desires that for us. To be loved, to be whole, to be all that we are created to be—that is God’s desire for us.

Can’t you hear that yearning in Isaiah? “You will not be shamed,” God says; God is with us, loving us even when it seems no one else does. God will be our spouse—even when it seems God is far away, that God has turned away, God is In fact
with us, close at hand, near to our hearts, in love and compassion.

When Jesus talks about the sheep and goats, and who will be in God’s realm, he does not mince words. The people who treat others with compassion and love will be the ones in bliss; the ones who do not will be in agony. Personally I do not believe in a literal hell; I believe we create our own heaven and hell here. People who behave like the goats—ignore the hungry, say the people in prison are lazy, refuse to allow the weary rest and will not care for the abandoned---they have created their one hell, because they are so far from God in those behaviors.  They often don’t realize it—some even think they are very Godly—but the truth is that those who do not care for the brothers and sisters God has sent them do not really care for God, either.

I do not want us to be passive about this. We are not simply the oppressed in this story. Or rather, we are—but we are also more. And this is true of all of us—because every one of is oppressed or put down in some way, because each of us is different in some way and the world generally has difficulty with differences. Maybe you’re a woman; maybe you’re gay; maybe you are a person of color; maybe you’re physically or mentally challenged; maybe you come from another country. Maybe several of these things are true of you—and there are others we could mention too, aren’t there? So we are both the marginalized and the ones who are called to do something for the marginalized; we are called to help our brothers and sisters. We are called to remind them that God will have compassion on them; that the days of their loneliness are over, that God loves them with an everlasting love. And we need to remember that for ourselves, too.

We are not cast into outer darkness, but are caught up in God’s everlasting love. That love is so great, so overwhelming that our “tent,” our hearts, can barely contain it—we have to enlarge them, to receive that great great love—to give it a home in our hearts and spirits.

My friends, know that without a doubt, God loves you as you are. Don’t say, “Well, sure, if I would just do this and that; or if I hadn’t done the other, it would be easier for God to love me.” The simple fact is that God just loves you—not because of or in spite of—God loves you. Period.

And that is what gay men, lesbians, drag queens, bisexual men and women, transgender people, affirming straight people, and people who didn’t like any label—that’s what crystallized for them that night in New York City. They might not have put it in these words, but this is what it boils down to. “We have a right to be here; to be who we are, God made us perfectly and loves us as we are. There are no second-class citizens in God’s realm. We are all God’s children equally.” With that knowledge, they were strong and insisted on their place in God’s love, in God’s family of choice. With that knowledge, we are strong and insist on our place in God’s family . And with that knowledge, we will continue to be strong and to resist any diminishing of our place in God’s family, our humanity, the image of God within us.

Be as God made you—strong, beautiful, blessed, and beloved of God. Amen.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"One in Three, Three in One" Trinity Sunday Message, Year A

Genesis 1:1 - 2:4
In the beginning when God was creating the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so.  God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together God called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so.  The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good.  And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years,  and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars.  God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth,  to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.  And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.” So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good.  God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.
Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God were they created; male and female they were created. God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.
God saw everything that had been made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work, and rested on the seventh day from all the work that had been done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that had been done in creation.
These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created in the day that God made the earth and the heavens.

Top of Form
Bottom of Form
Matthew 28:16-20
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Creator and of the Redeemer and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

***
Will you pray with me? God of mystery, three in one, never fully known, always present, ever-loving—open our hearts and minds to your riddle, to your love, to your presence with us in ways we do not always recognize or understand; give us grace to accept and celebrate what we do not understand, to know that your foolishness is greater than our wisdom; to worship and love you in all your complexity, so far beyond our capacity to comprehend.  In your own mighty name, amen.

Have you ever been in complete and total darkness? I mean, where there was no light at all—not stars, not a nightlight, not even light from across a field? I once went on a cave tour—don’t ask me why, when I tend to be claustrophobic—but I did. And at one point in the tour, we were asked to gather close together, so that our shoulders were touching, and then the lights went out. Now, it was already pretty dim down there, so it shouldn’t have taken long for our eyes to adjust and find what light was available. But there was none. We stood there for one minute, two, three…and could not see a thing. Utter, complete and total darkness. I was glad I could feel the shoulder of a friend against my arm, and hear her breathing…because otherwise I would have thought I was the only person in existence. When the guide broke the silence and turned the lights back on, it was almost unbearable—what had seemed so dim was now blindingly bright—and yet we had not been able to see, although our eyes were as adjusted to darkness as they could get.

That gave me a taste of what it must have been like before God began creating. Now, I had a place to stand, which God apparently didn’t—God “moved on the face of the deep,” i.e., chaos, nothingness, total disorder. But like me, God had others there—God addresses them—“let’s make humans in our image.” 

There’s been a lot of discussion over the years as to who was with God in the creation. We believe in one God, three persons—so all three persons were present, but what does that mean, exactly? William Willimon compares it to family relationships—as I am mother, sister, and daughter; or to the ways we interact with the world—as I am pastor, driver, reader, for example—three ways of being, but one person. But if that’s what God was doing, then we have a bit of a delusional God, talking to Godself as if God were several beings, as I spoke to Reader RP as if she were separate from Driver RP…. Some have said God was talking to the angels, others that it was other minor gods then present in the Hebrew pantheon. But I think that God was speaking among Godself—as we sometimes say—or at least I do—“OK, RP, that was a stupid move;” or “Well, RP, you did it! Hooray!” God was Godself, totally, in all ways of being when God  began creating.

God, in all of God’s being, created and is continuing to create the universe. God, in all of God’s being, was present on earth with humans, known as the person Jesus Christ, and will be present with us again. God, in all of God’s being, is present with us, in wisdom and grace and mercy and blessing.  This is what Jesus means when he says “I will be with you always,” surely one of the most, if not THE most, comforting verses in all scripture.

That is the Trinity we celebrate on this Sunday. All that God is, in all God’s mystery—we have to confess we don’t really completely understand it and never will—but we acknowledge it as good.  What we can “take away” is the understanding that God is community—and that therefore we are created to be in community as well.
One writer put it this way: “The formula does not save us. Love does. The power at the heart of the universe is love. God is love. Christ is the most complete form of love who ever walked the earth, and the Holy Spirit is Christ’s love among us after Easter. But the essence of the Trinity is love- relational, community love. People should know us by our love, not our doctrine.” (Rev. Dr. Robert M. Watson).  And they’ll know we are Christians by our love…Hm. How true is that these days? But I digress…

There are a lot of ways to describe the Trinity. I mentioned one a few minutes ago, in terms of relationships; another is the metaphor of the apple—God the creator being the skin that holds the apple together; God the Child or Redeemer being the flesh—that which feeds us; and God the Holy Spirit or Sustainer being the seeds, the way God is found everywhere in the world. But these functional descriptions—this is what God does—always falls short of the fullness of God’s being, just as describing what a person does can’t encompass all of who they are. I preach sermons—but I am more than that; I drive a car—but I am more than that; I read a lot—but I am more than that.
It’s not about what God does—it’s about relationships—God’s community of love, and our part in that community—who God is in relationship to us, and who we are in relationship to each other.  “God is love;” that is the simplest statement we can make about God, and the most profound, because it holds all the truth about God within it. Love implies another being—someone to love and to be loved by in return; the very concept of love means a community and denies solitude. God’s very being is in community and based in love—love creates, and does not destroy; love saves, and does not cast away; love lifts up, encourages, advocates, and hopes—love does not judge or deny or condemn.  

Think of the love of an ideal parent—I stress the ideal part, because parenting is the hardest work I have ever done; those of you who have parented in any way know what I mean—and all we can do is the best we can do—and that’s all we can expect of our own parents, too. But an ideal parent never scolds or shames or criticises. An ideal parent loves the child—gives him or her options to choose from, but always with guidance, with teaching about what is the best way , the most loving way to behave—not the simplest for the parent, or that choice that makes the child feel best—but what is truly best.

How many of you have read “To Kill a Mockingbird” or seen the movie? Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch is the consummate parent. As a small-town Southern lawyer who takes on a racially-charged court case defending a black man accused of raping a white woman, his family and friends tell him he shouldn’t take the case, it will hurt his credibility, and in any case, there’s no chance he can win it—he should turn it down. But Atticus refuses to turn it down. He says he couldn’t face his children if he did. He is raising them to be fair, to care for truth and honesty, to look out for those who are weaker, who are oppressed or in danger and to care for them. You don’t shoot mockingbirds, and you don’t hurt the defenceless. Atticus is parenting by example—the kind of father I think all of us wish we had had and some of us perhaps, had.
That’s love—to lay down a principle, and then to live up to it, to set an example for others to follow.  In simplest terms, that’s what Jesus did—taught others about God’s love, about the real riches of God’s realm, about what life could be like if we loved each other as God loved us—the love that binds the Trinity together. He did not draw back from being misunderstood, abused, even executed—because he was simply sharing God’s love with the world. 

Because none of us is perfect, we don’t always show that love, live up to that standard, in all situations—we try, and we fall short, of course. But because we are in community, when one of us fails, or does not, as a friend puts it, “act out of our best self,” others of us can step up and lift that person. We can stand in the breach for each other, carry one another when that person needs to know he or she is loved. 

Ideally, that is what the church—both the small c church, the church of Jesus Christ around the world, as well as each individual congregation—is about. And at its best, that is what it looks like—creating hope and joy through worship and prayer, offering Christ’s redemption, sustaining each other. 

Can we be that kind of people? That is the question I would leave with you today—are we able, do we dare, to be people who set an example of God’s love for each other—not only the people we like, not only the people who are nice to us and do things our way, who like us and support us—but all people, even the ones who annoy us and anger us and hurt us? 

On the cross, as he was dying, Jesus forgave those who had called for and carried out his execution. With that as our example, surely we can forgive a difference of opinion, or even a deeper hurt? I am not minimizing the pain of broken relationships—but I am asking if perhaps we can dig deeper into our hearts and find the love and forgiveness Jesus showed to all humans. 

In the tremendous name of the one God in three, amen.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"Gibberish or Gospel?" Message for Pentecost, June 12, 2011


Acts 2:1-21
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem.  And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,  Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my servants, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of God’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Holy One shall be saved.’

John 20:selected verses
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the religious leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw him. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As Abba God has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.  But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Child of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

***
Will you pray with me? Holy One, send your spirit of fire on each of us; make us to blaze with your Holy Spirit. Descend upon us and release us to be your people in truth and freedom. Open our mouths to speak your message of love; teach us the language to use so that your children will understand your truth. In your own name we pray, amen.

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

Well, perhaps Lewis Carroll isn’t taught in school anymore… But some of us knew it—could even recite it along with me!

But for those who don’t know Carroll nonsense poem, it sounds like gibberish. He said it wasn’t, just that he had used new words. “Brillig,” for example, means “late afternoon, around teatime.” And “slithy” means “graceful and slimy.” They are words, he said—just that the rest of the world didn’t know what they meant—not yet.

I think that must have been something like the experience of that crowd on that first Pentecost. There was something familiar in what they were hearing, but only some of them could understand some of it—others could understand other parts. Maybe a few understood all of what was being said. But for everyone, much of what they heard was nonsense. They didn’t know what it meant.

The definition of nonsense is different for each of us. What is normal and acceptable, and part of everyday for some individuals is incomprehensible to others. The difficulty arises when we use what we think is usual language and someone else thinks it is nonsense.

The wisdom of the Holy Spirit on that first Pentecost was in the varied speech—language—of the disciples. The same words that were gibberish to one person were words of life and wisdom and salvation to another person. The disciples spoke in many ways—and every one of them was understood by someone.

That tells us something about how we are to be disciples—not locked into one speech, one way of operating, one language, if you will. We have to be open to the moving of the Holy Spirit, who cannot be controlled and moves through and in us through God’s will. Each of us has our own way of communicating, our own understanding of what is nonsense and what is not—and therefore, we can each reach out to different people.

Depending on our own lives and circumstances, perhaps we “speak the language” of others: maybe people with addictions; or parents; or single people; or new Canadians; or people of a certain age; or with disabling conditions.  God can use all our circumstances for good ends—each of us has an “audience” who will understand what others might consider to be our nonsense. God speaks through us as God wills.

I have a friend who lives by a lake that is populated by geese—Canada geese, actually. They aren’t really my favourite bird, much as I like water birds like swans and ducks and herons. Geese tend to be noisy and messy and aggressive, especially when they have goslings. It’s difficult to walk by the lake sometimes, because the geese will attack—and even if they aren’t around, the benches and picnic tables are a mess from their droppings. They do what they like, they own the lakeshore, they cannot be controlled.

It is not a mistake that in Celtic Christianity, the wild goose is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. I think we can see why—wild, uncontrolled, free to move, always on the wing, just passing through, under no-one’s control but God’s.

That first Pentecost, the Holy Spirit made her presence known in no uncertain terms—and in a way that was wild, messy, unpredictable—under only God’s control.  Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, the disciples were so unruly that people thought they were under the influence of something else entirely—that they were drunk, first thing in the morning! Well, perhaps they weren’t drunk on wine—but they were truly under the influence of the Spirit—wild, crazy, uncontrolled, nonsense.

How often do we let the Spirit influence us like that?

I know, we’re calm, well-behaved mainstream Protestants, plus we’re Canadian—we don’t create disturbances, we don’t speak in tongues, we don’t get unruly—or not very often, anyway.

But just as someone doesn’t have to fall down to be drunk, we don’t have to utter unknown languages to know the Holy Spirit is moving with and through us.

When I answered God’s call to ministry, I was under the influence. When MCC Windsor called me to this pulpit, some people thought they were speaking nonsense. Other people have their stories, I know—when God called them, spoke to them, moved their hearts and spirits to do what seemed nonsense to the world around them.

And yet, here we are. The Spirit is wild, uncontrollable—like the breath of God, blowing where God wills.

One of the things Jesus commanded the disciples to do was to baptise. This was a shorthand for “welcome others into this group.” Baptism is the sign of joining God’s community—the community of Christians, the church with a small c. It is God’s act, through the Holy Spirit, wild, uncontrollable. Many MCC’s offer baptism at every service—they recognise that the Spirit cannot be channelled and may chose another day than Easter, Pentecost, Homecoming or All Saint’s to call someone to baptism.

Today we will be welcoming a new member to this community; on her behalf, her parents will renounce all that separates us from God. In her baptism, we call upon the Spirit to be present for and with her—in gibberish and nonsense, in wild drunken joy. We remember our own baptism—whatever age we were—and give thanks for that unruly Holy Spirit that brought us home to God.

In the name of the wild goose called the Holy Spirit, amen.